Marlene Dietrich invented the Croydon facelift; Marilyn Monroe shaved her face… The unlikely secrets of Hollywood icons
In the 1940s Marlene Dietrich pioneered a facelift technique – pulling her skin back using strands of hair, tape or even a gold chain
With all the lotions, potions and cosmetic surgery readily available to today's celebrities, it's easy to lose sight of what is natural.
Often, when we lament such artifice, we look back to the stars of Hollywood's Golden era whose ethereal beauty seemed genuine, if unattainable.
But subject the beauty regimes of those stars to closer scrutiny, and it transpires that the old Hollywood icons we admire so much relied just as heavily on the resources available to enhance their looks, even if their methods tended to err towards the basic.
Take German-born actress Marlene Dietrich..
With cosmetic surgery in its genesis stages, few stars would have dared have a full facelift. So Marlene Dietrich invented her own rudimentary technique to hold back the years.
During the filming of the 1944 film
Kismet when Dietrich was 43, she had her make up artists twist tiny
strands of her hair around hairpins which were then pulled fiercely
tight and fixed further back onto her head – sometimes with such
determination they would draw blood.
A 1940s version of the so-called
Croydon facelift, if you like.
Dietrich was also one of the first to
use surgical tape to pull back the skin on her face, hiding the tape in
her hairline or under a wig (and also used it when wearing strapless gowns to create a bra).
Later, when she was in her fifties, Dietrich went even further with her ingenious anti-ageing methods.
The star would run a fine gold chain
under her chin and behind her ears that would be concealed by her hair.
The chain pulled back sagging skin and held it in place, making her look
Dietrich's famous cheekbones are also rumoured to have had a helping hand too. It is said the star had her molars removed to accentuate the hollows of her cheeks, thus enhancing her bone structure.
As for Marilyn Monroe, it is well documented that the actress, so often cited as one of the world's most legendary beauties, changed her natural appearance radically to become the platinum blonde we know her as today.
Both Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were forced to shave their faces to maintain a hair-free appearance
But what is less known is that the star had a fine, blonde 'peach fuzz' of furry hair – known as vellus – all over her face. Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor, who also suffered from the dreaded face fur – removed it by wet shaving sop the harsh studio lights would not pick it up – a method few women would resort to today.
They may have been on to something too. Experts say that far from causing hair to grow back coarser (only hormones can do that), frequent shaving reaches the parts lazors cannot reach, and it exfoliates the skin.
A-list cosmetic dermatologist Dr Michael Prager says: ‘The shaved area of a man’s skin is younger-looking than the rest of his face because of the constant exfoliation, which stimulates collagen.
‘Plus, a fuzz-free face reflects the light.’
A natural beauty Not so much – Rita Hayworth's hair was originally black, and her hairline was a full inch lower
Monroe is also credited with inventing lipgloss, after noting that she looked much more alluring with wet-look lips She used her own concoction of lipstick, beeswax and Vaseline to get the effect, which is said to have paved the way for cosmetics companies to mass produce such a product.
With no such thing as lycra on offer, Marilyn was frequently sewn into her dresses to achieve the impossible wiggle she was famous for.
And knowing that a pert nipple was attractive to men, she would sew buttons onto the cups of her bras to achieve the effect, claiming that her nipples were 'the wrong kind' to become erect.
For her part, Rita Hayworth – that impossibly glamorous red head – was actually the owner of a thick head of black hair as a young starlet.
Her career was struggling to get off the ground, until one day a studio head suggested she raise her low hairline, telling Hayworth it made her look simple, and advised her to dye her hair red.
Many sessions of electrolysis later, Hayworth's hairline was a full inch higher.
A year later, she was in demand as one of Hollywood's top female stars.
But her success did not come without cost. The star had to re-tint her hair on an almost daily basis to prevent her natural black coming through.
Interestingly though, the studio preferred to photograph Hayworth with one day's regrowth, saying the minute shading of black at the roots framed her face and enhanced her features.
Maybe there is something to be said for the natural look after all.